Students at the University of California Berkeley campus will be able to take a course in competitive StarCraft playing this year, thanks to the University’s “DeCal” program.
StarCraft is the legendarily popular real-time strategy game from Blizzard Entertainment, playable on the Mac and Windows PC. The game pits humans and two other alien races — the biomechanical Zerg and highly-evolved Protoss — in a battle for dominance on the surface of alien worlds.
Thanks to free online play through Blizzard’s Battle.net service and continuously updated code from Blizzard itself, StarCraft remains a popular diversion for gamers almost a decade after it first sprang on the scene; the game has, at long last, spawned a sequel that Blizzard first unveiled in 2007, and will come to Macs and PCs once development is completed.
DeCal, or “Democratic Education at Cal,” lets students “manage and direct their own learning,” according to the school. Classes are offered pass/fail, so they don’t affect students’ grade point averages, and obviously a course on playing StarCraft isn’t going to help an undergraduate with any prerequisites, either. But it’s a real course, complete with homework and classwork — you can even view a syllabus online if you want to get a sense of what the course is about.
The class is being given by Alan Feng, who requires students to submit two replays of games they played and are willing to analyze in-depth. “Students are expected to explain the flow of the game, identify the time of several positive and negative moves, and show an understanding of how to overcome mistakes in these replays,” writes Feng in the course syllabus.
Students are required to have basic familiarity with StarCraft strategy, and to know the game well enough to identify all units. They also need StarCraft and its expansion pack, Brood War, along with “an open and analytic mind.”